A Good Read
Today being the Sabbath, I’ve decided to kick things off with a religious topic today. More specifically, I plan to briefly analyze the Wicca Rede (maxim, precept) – “An It Harm None, Do As Ye Will.” Or, in regular English, “Don’t harm anyone and do as you want (or do what you will do.)”
So, what brought this up? Well I’ve been reading Dies the Fire (which I recommend), by S.M. Stirling, and one of the main protagonists is a Wicca, a Witch for all of you who don’t get my meaning, who mentions this precept at a point in the novel. I read it and though, you know that’s not a bad moral system, really. After thinking on it a while, though, I’m not convinced that it is quite what it should be.
Tolkien was a pretty smart guy.
Now note, I am coming from a Christian perspective here, but I am not outright condemning anything that is associated with Wicca automatically any more than I would Buddhism or any other religion (Yes, Wicca is a religion). Mostly because I believe that most religions are simply corrupted or detail-mistaken worship of the Divine which I identify as the Judeo-Christian God. As Lewis and Tolkien believed, “All the other myths of the world are a mixture of truth and error – truth because they are written by those made by and for God – error because written by those alienated by God. But the Bible is the one true myth. It is a true accounting of truth, while everything else we do is mimicking.” – Tolkien. Read “Till We Have Faces” by C.S. Lewis, sometime.
I also believe that because everything is a mix of truth and error, we can identify and grasp those kernels of truth and cherish them, “There are truths, that are beyond us, transcendent truths, about beauty, truth, honor, etc. There are truths that man knows exist, but they cannot be seen – they are immaterial, but no less real, to us. It is only through the language of myth that we can speak of these truths.” – Tolkien.
I am not going to talk about any of their other beliefs at the moment. I’m just going to examine this one precept. So let’s get started.
Somebody just saw this and panicked. Why?
First, I want to draw your attention to the structure of the sentence, and how it affects the meaning. A lot of people, especially those that want to point fingers leap directly to the “Do what you want” segment. This sound particularly selfish and dangerous by itself, doesn’t it? What if someone wanted to rape or kill someone else?
Of course this is modified by the statement “Do not harm anyone.” I believe this distinction is very important. “Do what you want” cannot modify “Do not harm anyone.” If it did, then there would be no reason to say anything other than “Do what you want.” “Do what you want” is the guide to action. “Do not harm anyone” is the modifier.
Heck Yeah, I'll Do What I Want!
Why do I bring this up first? Because what I’m about to say might surprise you. I do indeed have a problem with the sentence, but it is not with the “Do what you want” part, it is with the “Don’t harm anyone” part.
Does that surprise you? Why does it? “Do what you want” is essentially saying “Live.” How is that a problem? That’s more or less what God said to Adam and Eve in the Garden, isn’t it? There is no problem with doing what you want. The problem only comes when the modifier is insufficient.
And there always is a modifier. God said “Do what you want… just don’t eat of the Tree.” Wiccans say “…just don’t hurt anybody.” Heck, even Ayn Rand’s moral system (which was supposedly objective) had arbitrary modifiers like “guns are not an argument,” and other sayings that essentially mean “don’t do violence.” Some religions have loads of modifiers, such as modern dogmatic Christianity. Some have none, such as Satan Worship (which is really self worship, and no, Wiccans are not Satan Worshipers.)
Note the Inversion that is used to mock the worship of life? Satanism is against Wicca.
But then why do I have a problem with the modifier “Don’t harm anyone?” That’s a good thing isn’t it? Well… yeah. Obviously. (Note that I am working under the common human assumption that violence is a bad thing. I know I’m working from a not entirely objective viewpoint. I’m watching you Cory! 😛 ) It is basically a good thing to do no harm, truly.
My problem with it is simple. It doesn’t go far enough. I can sense some readers backing up now. “Whoa, whoa, what do you mean by that? What kind of strictures are you about to lay down, here?” It’s not so onerous as you might think, but I’ll get to that in a minute. I think it doesn’t go far enough because it doesn’t ask people to be better or kinder or stronger, or helpful. I could be a Wicca perfectly abiding by my precepts and still stand by watching a woman be raped and not do anything to help her. Now, there are many Wiccans who would go help a woman in such distress. Let me stress the point that they can be fantastic people, just like Catholics can be (this is a jab at all you Catholic Haters out there who take your beliefs about the Beast of Revelation and use it to denounce your fellow man,) just like Jews can be (I’m looking at you, you dastardly anti-Semitics!)
Could you withold help from that cute little face? Aw!
But a Wicca who goes out of his way to help someone in need is going beyond their precept. They did a good thing, but it was not a part of their religion implicitly.
Now, keep in mind I’m not condemning or insulting them here, and keep in mind that I’m coming from my biased and opinionated point of view, but I think that their precept simply doesn’t go far enough.
So, what would go far enough? There are some of you out there who know I come philosophically to the same conclusion as my Christian beliefs. The conclusion I come to is best summed up by my Lord, Himself,
God is Love.
“Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Mathew 22:37-40(NIV.) Both of those commandments come down to one thing: Love. For a greater understanding of true love, I highly recommend 1 Corinthians chapter 13
Ultimately I believe that Jesus and Paul in Corinthians say it best, but if I had to sum up for you what I think would be a nice modification of that Wicca Precept it would read thusly:
“Love all with the fullness of thine heart and with all thine actions, and doest what ye will.” – or in modern language, “Love everyone, treat them accordingly, and enjoy life as you wish.” Or you could also say it in Texan, “Love everybody, treat ‘em good, and have fun, yall!” Take your pick, or make your own! 😀
Really briefly, I want to say what I think about the Thursday Summit between Obama, the Democrats and the Republicans. Some people are calling the summit Pointless and Ultimately a Waste of a Day While Politicians Postured
. In some ways this is very true. Political posturing was definitely going on during the summit. It was swamping it for that matter, on both sides. And it is also very true that nothing ultimately got agreed upon.
Does anybody else find the pic on the right oddly facinating?
By those standards it is true that the summit was not a wonderful thing. But this point of view misses something in my opinion. Despite the fact that the politicians used this as a stage, it did increase transparency in the government. The summit was unprecedented, and though no work was accomplished, the people of America saw their elected officials trying. Neither side would give an inch, and I don’t think that is surprising to anyone. But as bull-headed as they were, it was a dialogue in the context of working out an agreement. That premise alone instills some vague and small sense of confidence in the idea of the political system. If more summits of this televised kind happened, it would slowly stop merely being a stage and it would turn into a workplace; a workplace that involves every television watching person in America.
By that standard alone, the summit was a success and hopefully the first of many like it. Obama finally kept that particular campaign promise, and it is a breath of fresh air on the political scene. While I believe that The Democrats Have An Obviously Better Plan
, I like to see Republicans able to share their ideas (or lack thereof *sigh*) right amongst the Democrats. Being able to compare and contrast in real time, without letting the audience seclude themselves with the one-sided talk-radio show of their choice, means that people can compare and contrast the plans without the immediate and overwhelming spin of one viewpoint (like you might hear from Limbaugh, Hannity or O’Reily.
That’s all I really have to say about that.
Sorry, no more pics. This is what we in the blogosphere refer to as LAZY.
It’s about a week off from the Oscars, so I think it’s time I gave my predictions for the big awards and a few of the minor ones I’m more aware of.
Let’s Start with Best Picture. The nominees are:
The Blind Side
The Hurt Locker
A Serious Man
Up in the Air
This is going to be a really interesting year for the Oscars. The academy is obviously trying to rope in new viewers by increasing the number of movies nominated (people will watch if they’re rooting for their favorite movie to win,) but this may backfire on the academy by making it easier for dark horse fare that wouldn’t usually win an Oscar (or be nominated for that matter) to take home the prize. District 9 and The Blind Side would not be there, certainly if it weren’t for the opening up of the races.
Some people think this cheapens the award. I don’t buy that. The award was already cheap, and the only movies that won were movies most people didn’t usually care to see (they should though, there have been many deserving winners over the years). This year is one of the few years that geeks and genre lovers see the award as worth anything.
But how to analyze it…Avatar and The Hurt Locker are the champion horses in this race. Both are likely to win, however the competition between the two may mean that a third party has a chance. There are some fantastic dark horse contenders up there, with Up and Up in the Air, and Inglorious Basterds the three most likely to pull ahead of the big ones.
That’s just it, though. The dark horses are competing with each other for the dark horse spot. For a dark horse to win, they have to be the unseen third party, the big one behind the curtain. If three films are competing for that role, they all end up too small to take on the Mammoth Avatar and Hurt Locker.
So what film do I think will win? Avatar.
Why? Because no one dark horse will show up, and the dark horses are more likely to pull votes away from The Hurt Locker than they will for Avatar. The voters who are going to vote for Avatar love Avatar and that’s all they will vote for. Everybody else is likely voting for something else because they don’t like Avatar (though they probably like their choice for its own merits too). This means that, though Hurt Locker is a big one, it isn’t THE movie that everyone else is rallying behind. Avatar is the 800 lb. Gorilla in the room. If you’re for the gorilla, you’re in its corner. If you’re not for the gorilla, you’re going to spread out to the four winds, wherever you deign to go. Without that unifying film to topple Avatar, Avatar will stomp all over the competition.
Other likely possibilities:
Hurt Locker – A good Iraq war film? The academy loooves that.
Up in the Air – A great movie with George Clooney? Nice!
Favorites that won’t win:
Up – They’re already going to give it the Best animated award *spoilers*
Inglorious Basterds – As great as Tarantino may be, he’s an acquired taste and if there is any one genre fare film that a voter will go for, it’s the epic, classic-Holly-Wood-story, money-making Avatar.
District 9 – Loved the film, but again, if there is one genre film voters can choose they’ll mostly choose Avatar.
On to Best Actor. The nominees are:
I’ll be honest I know nothing about this race, but it’s one of the big awards, so I got ta choose. If the buzz in Hollywood is anything to go by, I’d say Jeff Bridges is the likely contender for this one, with a possible George Clooney upset victory.
On to Best Director. The nominees:
The Hurt Locker
Up in the Air
This one is a definite race between Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker” and her ex, James Cameron, for “Avatar.” Without dark horses nipping away the Hurt Locker’s votes, and given the academy’s desire to award this film, I would say this is the point where Bigelow gets the nod.
Cameron is a heavy force though, and the shepherd of 3-D, the industry’s new darling, so it’s really a toss-up.
On to Best Supporting Actor. The nominees are:
Again, a contest I know little about. This may be the most mysterious category to me. But I’ve heard excellent things about Christopher Waltz’s performance in Inglorious Basterds. A number of critics have said he was the most riveting part of the movie, and if the academy wants to award something to Tarantino and his Inglorious Basterds, this will be the category to do it in.
On to Best Actress. The nominees are:
Meryl Streep? Again!? She sure can act, though.
But that won’t help her. At this point she’s simply a staple of the category. The real star of this list is Sandra Bullock who had a rollercoaster of a year with some real stinkers (All about Steve) and some really strong performances(The Blind Side). The academy likes an actress who can do a fantastic job even as they start to age and move past their prime. On top of that, The Blind Side is the highest grossing film with a lead actress, and the academy will almost certainly try to award them for that here.
On to Best Supporting Actress. The nominees are:
Not a contest I’m familiar with, but Mo’Nique has a lot of good buzz and some serious momentum coming off of the Golden Globes. At this point, she’s the one to beat.
On to Animated Feature Film. The nominees are… do we really need to know? We all know what’s going to happen here, right?:
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells
Up, obviously. And it deserves it too, if just for the first half of the film. The real shame here is that ALL of the nominees are fantastic (except for possibly Kells. I haven’t seen anything at all from Kells). Every one (besides maybe Kells?) deserves this award.
On to Art Direction. The nominees are:
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
The Young Victoria
If Avatar had better competition, I’d say this one would be up for grabs more than people would think. A lot of people are simply not able to like the character designs for the Na’vi of Pandora. For whatever reason they are utterly repulsed by blue-skinned cat-like people. Furthermore I’ve seen some people compare the film to a crazed light-brite. So if Avatar had some serious competition things might turn out differently. As it is, Avatar will win, hands down. (And it absolutely should.)
On to Cinematography. The nominees are:
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Hurt Locker
The White Ribbon
I’ve got to say, I really liked the Cinematography in HP: atHBP. But Avatar will take this one with its sweeping vistas, emotional angles and well-shot action scenes.
On to Film Editing. The nominees are:
The Hurt Locker
The Hurt Locker is most likely to win this one. Avatar has been criticized for scenes and shots that sometimes go on too long, and District 9’s editing wasn’t the films strongest point. Inglorious Basterds may be a dark horse here.
On to Music (Original Score). The nominees are:
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Hurt Locker
I’m going to suggest that Sherlock Holmes goes home with this one.
On to Music (Original Song). The nominees are:
The Princess and the Frog – “Almost There”
The Princess and the Frog – “Down in New Orleans”
IMO, this race is just between the Princess and the Frog songs. A lot of people want to reward the return to hand-drawn animated musicals, and this is where they will do it. While I really like the catchy “Almost There” the award will go to “Down in New Orleans” for its range, flavor and content.
On to Sound Editing. The nominees are:
The Hurt Locker
I want Star Trek to win something, dagnabbit! Thus I say it will win, even though I have no real clue.
On to Sound Mixing. The nominees are:
The Hurt Locker
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Again, I’m voting Trek. I want it to take away something!
And finally, Visual Effects. The nominees are:
All three are great visual spectacles, but Avatar wins this hands down for being the first really well-made 3-D film as well as its advances in motion capture and graphical realism (if you’re the kind of person, like me, who can accept blue people.)
Well, that’s all for today, folks! Catchy you later!
– Edward L. Cheever II